Baker proposes legislation to extend some emergency measures

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is filing legislation to extend several pandemic-related emergency measures put in place via executive order that are set to expire next month when the state of emergency will end, the administration said Tuesday.

The legislation proposed would extend measures providing a temporary suspension of certain open meeting law requirements, special permits for expanded outside dining at restaurants, and billing protections for COVID-19 patients, administration officials said in a statement.

Most pandemic restrictions, including business capacity limits and mask-wearing rules, will be rescinded Saturday.

The Republican governor issued an executive order in March 2020 that allowed city councils, select boards and other public bodies to meet remotely during the pandemic as long as there was electronic public access.

Extending that order until Sept. 1 will allow additional time to consider possible permanent changes to the open meeting law to provide for greater flexibility in conducting open meetings remotely, the administration aid.

The bill will also grant municipalities extended authority to consider outdoor dining permits for restaurants through Nov. 29.

The legislation will also extend a protection that prohibits medical providers from billing patients who have received COVID-19-related emergency and inpatient services for charges in excess of costs paid by their insurers.

That protection would extend through the end of the year.

“Massachusetts is leading the nation in the vaccination effort and that progress is enabling the Commonwealth to return to normal,” Baker said. “These temporary measures will help businesses and residents in this transition period, and I look forward to working on these and other issues in the week ahead with our partners in the legislature.”

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